Augustus Desiré Waller (1856 – 1922) was an British physiologist.
In 1887 he used a Lippmann’s capillary electrometer…and a toy train,to record the first human electrocardiogram (ECG)
Physiology dominated Waller’s life. He had a home laboratory where his wife Alice Palmer (biscuit heiress of Huntley and Palmer) and 5 children participated and dog Jimmie took part in his experiments.
His daughter Mary remembered packing for a trip and her mother asking the children what things they wanted to take, adding ‘but don’t forget, Father has bagged the galvanometer‘.
- Born 18 July 1856 Paris, France
- 1881 – MD, Aberdeen University
- 1883 – Lecturer in physiology at the School of Medicine for Women, London
- 1884 – Lecturer in physiology at St Mary’s Hospital
- 1897 – Fullerian Professor of Physiology
- Died 11 March 1922
Key Medical Attributions
1887 – Waller used a capillary electrometer to record the first human electrocardiogram. Surface electrodes were strapped to the front and back of the chest producing two distorted deflections: ventricular depolarization and repolarization. He attached his equipment to a slowly moving toy train, allowing him to record the heart’s activity in real time.
The first experiment was made in the St Mary’s laboratory in May 1887 and demonstrated there to many physiologists, among others to my friend Prof Einthoven of Leiden – Waller 1912
Waller often demonstrated the electrogram using his dog “Jimmy” who would patiently stand with paws in glass jars of saline
AD Waller was the son of Augustus Volnay Waller (1816–1870). AV Waller is remembered for:
- Diapedesis: His thesis involved examination of the frog’s tongue micro-circulation. Waller observed white blood cells (but not red ones) could squeeze between capillary cells.
- Wallerian degeneration of the nerves: Sections of frog’s tongue to show nerves produced ‘necklaces of droplets‘ (degenerating myelin) on one side of the cut – an indication of the direction in which the nerve normally conducted.
- Waller AD. A demonstration on man of electromotive changes accompanying the heart’s beat. Journal of Physiology 1887;8:229-34. [First ECG in Man]
- Waller AD. On the electromotive changes connected with the beat of the mammalian heart, and of the human heart in particular. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 1889; 180: 169–94.
- Waller AD. An introduction to Human physiology. Longmans, Green, and co. 1891.
- Waller AD. Physiology, the servant of medicine. Univ. of London Press. 1910.
- Waller AD. A contribution to the psychology of logic, considered from a physiological standpoint. University of London Press. 1912.
- Sykes AH. A D Waller and the electrocardiogram, 1887. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987 May 30;294(6584):1396-8. [PMC1246558]
- Sykes AH. Servants of Medicine: Augustus Waller—father and son physiologists. J R Soc Med. 2005 Apr; 98(4): 185–186. [PMC1079454]
- Cope Z. Augustus Desire Waller (1856-1922). Med Hist 1973;17:80-5. [PMC1081500]
- Besterman E, Creese R. Waller–pioneer of electrocardiography. Br Heart J. 1979 Jul;42(1):61-4. [PMC482113]
- Eponymythology. History of the Electrocardiogram. LITFL
the person behind the name